Friday, November 30, 2012

Today's guest author: Keri Ramos

Comedy isn't pretty. By most accounts, funny people like Chevy Chase and Peter Sellers are/were, at best, pricks when not dishing out the LOLs. It takes guts to point out serious character flaws that run so counter to the public's perception of an individual. Keri Ramos has guts. She also has a much lower tolerance for bullshit than you would expect to find in someone so young. If I were a doctor, I'd guess that the extra guts are filling up the area where the tolerance for bullshit is supposed to go. But I'm not a doctor; I'm a monster. I'm the illegitimate lovechild of Chevy Chase, Peter Sellers, Hitler and George Steinbrenner (don't ask how that works logistically or biologically; I told you I'm not a doctor). Don't believe me? Read the account below from the gutsy and talented Keri Ramos.   

A Ridiculously Inconsistent Commission

I asked to be the last contributor. I've read all the other guest spots, highly entertained by tales of boots and rockstars that can't pick up chicks. See, we all babysat this blog as Clark took off November to finish up his book. Did you know he was writing a book? (If he's smart, he'll link to that book announcement right about now.) I bet you had fun, right? Whether you participated or even just read the entries, it was fun, right? Clark's pretty awesome like that, isn't he? Just a ball of amazing, huh? Working with Clark is pretty much the best thing ever, right?

Wrong. Working with Clark is terrible, and you guys are a bunch of suckers. Do not let him fool you, not for one second.

A simple text message came to me late one summer night by way of Clark Brooks and ruined my life for good: "I need editing work done. Let's discuss this." He was talking about his book, a lovingly compiled "best of" from this blog that I'd heard distant rumblings about before.

I still don't know why he picked me.

We met at some tragically hip spot in Ybor and drank weird apricot beers that our bartender called "pedestrian" much to Clark's indignation. "Don't be an idiot," he snapped. "Beers can't walk." He told me more about the project and who was involved, what his time frame was and exactly what he wanted me to do. "Make me look really good. And if I'm frustrated, tell me I'm pretty."

I still don't know why I said yes.

Once a week we'd set aside time for each other. We didn't always meet in person, but when we did, it was usually our "pedestrian" Ybor hangout. The staff is friendly, the atmosphere is very chill and there's usually live music. I know what you're thinking. Clark is such a jerk.

When we did meet up, we'd spend a little while hashing out book details and going over game plans or schematics or whatever editors are supposed to do. Clark would inevitably dominate the conversation. He would ask about my life, my family, my stories. And he'd listen. And we'd talk this way for hours, swapping anecdotes that are usually best understood by fellow creative types. What a tool, right? Not only did I have to edit his stories, I had to listen to them in real life too.

When we didn't meet, I'd just send emails or be available by phone. One time it took him three days to respond to my email. I assumed he was dead at first, but he kept checking into places on FourSquare, so I knew he was okay. I almost showed up to one of those places like some kind of crazy person. I can handle editing, but don't make me worry about you, Clark, you big meanie.

I called him once and he didn't answer. He texted back immediately saying he was at work and couldn't talk. Work? Couldn't talk? TO ME? Work is work but this book is his future! I cried myself to sleep that night. When he did have time for me, it was at crazy hours, like 8 AM. I work freelance hours, I don't know what 8 AM looks like. But there was Clark, enthusiastic as ever, wanting to know where we were on Chapter Five. *Spoiler alert* - there is no Chapter Five.

More abuse came: he started showing a lot of gratitude and being fun, which really threw me for a loop because I thought I'd be working with the cranky guy from the purple blog. We met a few times and didn't even talk about the book. We just hung out and decompressed like two frazzled friends trying to make headway on the same project. He bought me beers (not the pedestrian kind, we evolved) and once he even gave me a slice of his pizza. Listen, I know you're starting to fall for him the way I did, but don't. The pizza wasn't that good.

When it was over, we met one last time. I drank sangria and anxiously awaited him at the bar. "I don't know how to say what I'm trying to say," I drunkenly stammered. "But now that I'm done..." "Are you breaking up with me?" he spat out. "Because I think we should work with other people." I was floored. I just wanted to tell him how happy I was to work with him and that I wanted to be super best friends forever. Matching bracelets and all. Clark shoved a check into my hand, kissed me on the cheek and sped off into the night, leaving me there like some kind of editing-hooker. I yelled "you're pretty!" into the parking lot, but it was too late.

I can't speak for the rest of the book team, but in an editing capacity, please don't ever work with Clark. Ever. (Because I will find you and I will break all of your fingers. Clark. Is. Mine. Get your own weird friend who wants to write a book.)

And about the book, it's hilarious. He's not paying me to say that, because I already got paid once, and I'm pretty sure hookers don't get royalties.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A new low: An ad for an ad!

Hi there. Have you checked out The Unbelievables, the sartorially spectacular adventures of me, Jeff Hickmott and Michael Noble yet? No? Well, maybe you will find this trailer intriguing enough to inspire you to do so...

The theme song you hear was created by Douglas Arthur, who serves in the official capacity of The Unbelievables Musical Director when not fronting the Flaming Schwarzkopf Experience. Hopefully, very soon the theme song will be available as a download, possibly with a slow jam "love theme". Awwww yeah. make your own little Unbelievables!
In the mean time while you wait for things to listen to, we'll keep writing stuff for reading at.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Today's guest author: Mike Lortz

Today's submission is from comedian Mike Lortz, a regular contributor to our Guest Author Months. Mike is currently overseas, performing for the crowned heads of Europe and the sub-continent, but he still found time to share something with us.

Way back during my college days, I wrote an article on my thoughts on male wedding planning. Most guys don’t get into wedding planning as they don’t want to upset their bride-to-be who has probably had the day planned in her head since the moment senior prom ended. But not me. I’m ballsy enough to advocate for certain things on that big day. Even if my ideas are rejected.

Every time I go to a wedding I get more great ideas. My initial college piece discussed getting registered in the Dollar Store, eating only finger food, and having an Elvis impersonator at the reception. A few years later, I wrote another piece in which I advocated saying my vows in the third person, encouraging the wave at the ceremony, and including giveaways in the wedding program.

While on leave from Afghanistan, I went to another wedding and had even more great ideas. This time, I was thinking big. I was thinking a themed wedding. You know, like the Star Wars weddings, the KISS weddings, or even the more-accepted beach weddings people have. I want a wedding that expresses my personality. One that will show in pictures the type of people I and my beautiful unknown bride were at the time of our nuptials.

I want a 70’s themed wedding.

Those who know me around Tampa know I am known to rock the ‘fro wig at times. Afro wigs make for fun times and great pictures. I’d put an afro wig on every seat at the reception and give an afro wig to every guest. Even 80-something year old great aunts and grandparents can look funky in an afro wig.

I would also encourage everyone to be dressed in vintage 70s garb. 70s night at Clearwater’s Brighthouse Field is always a good time and there are plenty of vintage clothing places out there. It shouldn’t too hard to wear your funky best.

A 70s themed wedding would also have a sense of familiarity for the older generations in attendance. My parents, aunts, and uncles would be able to relive the fun of their own weddings forty years later. The way I see it, young people will have fun at weddings no matter what, but it is keeping the older generations involved that is the tricky part. Giving them a sense of nostalgia is a great start.

And that brings me to the best part: the music. Young people will dance to anything. My parents’ generation doesn’t dance to booty music. It’s not their thing. But 70s funk and disco is their thing. It’s what they feel comfortable with, what they rocked their teens and 20s to. So if I can find a disco cover band (say, like Disco Inferno) to rock all night, everyone will have a funktastic time.

The last great advantage would be the photos. In today’s media climate, where people want to put olde tyme photo effects on everything via Instagram and other camera doodads and gizmos, why not use that to an advantage? 70s themed wedding photos with olde tyme effects would give the look that the wedding did in fact take place 40 years ago. But the memories will be as fresh as a blue polyester suit on Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A short conversation aboard the mothership orbiting Earth right this minute

"Bxgzylrk, bring up the surveillance feed. I feel today would be a good day to invade but I want to see what the Earthlings are doing right now before I make that decision."
"Yes Captain."

"Oh my. What are they fighting over? Medicine? Food? Warm winter clothing?"
"No Captain. Cell phones."
"Cell phones?"
"Yes, Captain. Personal communication devices designed to..."
"I know what cell phones are. Don't merchants normally provide them to their customers free-of-charge as part of service agreements?"
"Yes, Captain. But these have games on them. And cameras."
"Cell phones have never had games and cameras on them before?"
"Is this from a part of Earth where cell phones were previously unavailable until now?"
"No, Captain. This is America. It's safe to assume that 99% of the people we see in this feed already have a cell phone in their possession."
"America? The last time I checked this feed, less than 12 hours ago, these same people were gathered as families and expressing gratitude and satisfaction with their current circumstances. What happened?"
"Something called 'door busters', Captain. Apparently it's an economic ritual that allows Earthlings to save their money by spending significant amounts of it. So far, none of our calculations have been able to replicate similarly favorable results."
"Well, it must be valid. Look at them go!"
"Yes, Captain."
"There must be a logical explanation for this behavior."
"Captain, our research indicates that the Earthings are ... crazy."
"I can't imagine that's accurate. Is this not the same civilization that invented baseball?"
"Yes, Captain. They also invented the practice of paying people to play it."
"Cancel the invasion. I can't deal with crazy people."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy T-day, 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving!
We observe this special occassion of the one day a year when people willingly tune into Detroit Lions football on purpose by closing down through the weekend. See you on Monday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Today's guest author: John Fontana

Depending on when you read this, the NHL work stoppage has resulted in me putting myself on a self-imposed "suspension" from Raw, where I cover the Tampa Bay Lightning. As such, managing editor John Fontana is currently just my friend and not my boss. He's also today's blog sitter.

November 1st, 2012.  It’s not a day that should have stuck out in most people’s minds.  All Saints Day, candy clearance sales, whatever…  It’s just another day.  That’s how it was for me.  It was a regular day with nothing other-worldly going on.  The NHL lockout continued, as did the dearth of things to write about over at my regular writing gig, and the 2012 presidential campaign droned on like a mosquito buzzing in the night – just annoying the ever loving shit out of me.

The mundane, status-quo of that Thursday receded as I surveyed the stack of mail that arrived for me. Yeah, some people still find relevant things that arrive via the postman, if you can believe it. One letter was a charity, looking for money to cure paralysis. A rather lofty and worthwhile cause, but it was just another charity that had come to me in recent weeks, seeking donations for causes of all sorts.

Another piece of mail was a Figis holiday catalog. Tis the season for holiday shopping, after all (note to readers: Figis specializes in edible gifts. I’ve had mixed results on stuff I’ve purchased from them. No, Clark, I will not buy you the Peanut Butter Pie).

It was the third piece of mail that made me do a double take before I started to laugh in disbelief. That was my immediate reaction, which soon gave way to a wave of emotions: frustration, anger, longing, angst, embarrassment, hope, despair, and feelings of my own self-worth (lofty to worthless). These and several other emotions conflicted, contradicted, complimented and coincided each other for the remainder of my afternoon and on into the evening. It’s hard to imagine one small, unopened envelope has that power and ability.

But the words “RETURN TO SENDER” have that power sometimes.

Actually, the words weren’t “RETURN TO SENDER” at all. Stamped in red was the decree that the “APO / FPO CLOSED” and that the address the letter was intended for could not be reached. APO/FPO denotes an armed services mailing address. The thing is the letter itself was sent 16 months ago. Thus the disbelief it’d turn up back in my mailbox.

If I was writing fiction here and looking to make this a tear-jerker, I’d start rambling off about an old friend who had gone off to war and died, tragically, without getting a letter that had been sent to them and how this was a reminder about that loss and how the main character was trying to overcome it and remained haunted by it. You could milk that story for gallons of emotion and pull at heart strings… Well, at least a capable storyteller could, whereas I’m a blogger, so the “capable storyteller” element remains to be seen.

But that story concept isn’t the reality here, not entirely. No one died, thankfully… Though I can’t say there were no casualties and no one was harmed.

You meet people along the way in life, all sorts of characters under all sorts of circumstances. Some are bit players you notice but never get to know, while others are integral characters. Sometimes the roles shift and backdrop characters become integral. Sometimes, people exit, stage left, early on and you think they’ll never be part of your own story again, only for you to suddenly come face to face with them years later. Seldom, where there once was nothing, it becomes something… At least for a time.

I had that happen with a girl I’d known through middle school. We weren’t just acquaintances, but I wouldn’t say we were normal friends either. We had classes together and interacted with each other there. She boldly told me sometime in 8th grade that she was moving to Maine and would never see me again. For the most of 18 years, I didn’t.

Long story short, I was re-introduced to her in 2010 by a mutual friend. She was a US Marine, had a pair of kids and ties to the Tampa Bay area still… We had a thing for a short while before she headed overseas on a deployment. During that deployment, I was a constant state-side contact for her, emailing back and forth (when opportunity presented itself for her to email), sending out letters in the US mail, the occasional care package with mundane creature-comforts that are rare and precious to a deployed soldier.

And, to be blunt, let's just say I got hurt.

This letter, the one that arrived on a cloudy Thursday afternoon that’s sitting, unopened, on my dresser, was originally mailed in July of 2011 – shortly after the shit had hit the fan between the Marine and I. We hadn’t fought, there weren’t hateful things said toward one another, bridges weren’t burned, but I tried to step back and cut the cord from her emotionally for my own sake. This letter – one of 38 that I sent over the months – was one written when I decided to break the ice and re-establish contact with her.

Hurt or not, I felt like I couldn’t abandon her. Despite the heartache, my job wouldn’t be done until she was back in the States. Off and on for the remainder of her extended deployment, I tried to remain a dependable entity state-side that I had been before.

At this point in time, I can say that the Marine got home after her all-too-long stay at sea that lasted beyond the originally planned length of the undertaking for her unit. Unfortunately, despite her return, our friendship has faded. Unlike that bold little girl who moved away, there was no declaration of finality. It is just estrangement that’s turned to silence. She’s resumed a life state-side – one without me in it. The few times we had talked after her return, conversations were stifled by awkwardness and an inability to just be normal friends. It’s how it goes sometimes, right?

That letter that arrived with a stack of junk mail is a testament to my dedication to someone I care about. It’s also a reminder of a friendship that has been lost to the vastly different worlds we live in and the different people that we are.

One of the last conversations between us – electronically, not face to face – was musing about that long deployment and a package I had sent to her that had been returned to me last spring (five months after I sent it). The Marine told me that she had written an article or a journal entry somewhere about my correspondence, the 38 letters from John (all of which she did not receive).

The proof of that fact is sitting on my dresser, with an “APO/FPO CLOSED” stamp on it. I wonder how far it must have traveled before returning to my mailbox. What type of adventures did the letter experience on its trek of countless miles?

The distance of that letter’s journey in 16 months pales in comparison to the gauntlet of emotions I’ve dealt with during that time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today's guest author: Marissa Rapier

Today, we're hearing from Marissa Rapier, known fondly around here as The Pride Of Kankakee. You can find her Marissisms at her site, Marissology. She hasn't been writing as much lately, but she found time to share with us a tale of sexy, sexy footwear!

Kankakinky Boots

What started as a simple online shopping venture for over the knee boots turned into an entirely different, sordid adventure.

Being blessed with wonderful attributes like great hair (I am a Leo. It is my crowning glory), bodacious tatas -- OK, big boobs and maybe not so awesome now, and a relatively round rump, I am a walking testament to the phrase, “what the Lord giveth; the Lord taketh away.” My fabulosity ends at the hip. Meaning, I have tree trunk legs riddled with relief map varicose veins. That being said, I try to spare the world from viewing and myself from embarrassment by never wearing shorts, mini skirts, etc… You get the picture, right?

As stated before, I was on a quest to find flat heeled, over the knee black boots that could be worn with leggings and a tunic, skirts that come to the knee. Not only would they hide my heinous gams, they would protect them from the wicked winds of the wintery Midwest.

What I learned in this quest was that most over the knee boots are not for the faint of heart or weak ankled. The same results would have shown if I Google searched “Pirate Hooker Boots.” Apparently, Lady Gaga, pole dancers, porn actresses, hookers, and drag queens mostly purchase this category of footwear. The bonus to the product being a drag queen staple is that size 11 women’s shoe is widely available. Go me! The downside is that the heel is a minimum of 5 inches with a platform. I am a smidgen shy of being 6 feet tall.

Do you see my dilemma? Platform boots are not only impractical for my purposes, they would potentially make people question if I am a man dressed as a woman or something straight out of a B movie featuring Amazons from outer space.

I scrolled through the page of the online catalog, which shall remain nameless. Oh my!! Hot pink, purple, silver, cobalt, bronze, gold, go-go white, shiny black over the knee hooker boots! Imagine what I could do with those suckers.

Imagine is precisely what you’ll have to do because I didn’t buy them. Instead of hiding my legs, I sought out treatment for the unsightly veins and the process will begin in the next month or so. I’m terrifically thrilled as I watched my mother and father both suffer from the often-excruciating agony of the condition. My father developed ulcers on his leg that were deep and enormous. His legs were blackish purple below the knee. I have looked at my own situation thinking I would suffer the same fate. Alas, the miracle of science spares me from continued discomfort. Already at the age of 47 small ulcers have materialized on my left leg. I am a prime candidate for laser treatment. The Frankenstein cutting and stripping of the veins are a thing of the past.

OK, so maybe when my confidence level is through the roof I’ll don a pair of those hot silver knee high boots and a mini skirt and Clark’s white puffy shirt *wink*. Let the world look at me as if I work for an escort service. Looking is free of charge!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today's guest author: Michael Noble

Today, we'll be hearing from Michael Noble, another guy with a lot of irons in the fire:
In spite of that, he not only took the time to contribute material but a bio as well:
Michael (quizzically calling himself Ruprecht for reasons better left unknown) is happiest when he's whirling his cane above his head while yelling at kids to stay off his damned lawn.
He passed that along with these instructions: "Feel free to use it, alter it or make mockery of it as you see fit." Typical Michael; taking all the fun out of mockery by giving permission to engage in it.

Love and Rockets ............

"Man ... I need that ..." an acquaintance noted.

"Why?" I asked.

"It has all the latest features. It's an outstanding upgrade ... longer battery life ... better graphics ... wider screen ... more durable ..."


"'Huh' ... ??? That's it? What are you getting?"

"I'm not getting anything. I'm happy with what I have ..."

"What? Your Droid?"

"Yeah. Works just fine."

"How old is that thing?"

"Two years? Two and a half years? Something like that ..."

"Dude: You need to upgrade. I'm surprised you're even able to access any apps on it. They have to load at a crawl rate on that thing."

"I don't use any applications ..."

"Right. You don't have any on that thing. And they're called 'apps' ..."

"... well none I would consider as such at any rate. Nothing that hasn't been around since before smart phones came about."

"Well ... Angry Birds is an app. Everyone has that."

"Nope. Not me."

"Get out. Next you'll be telling me you've never played it."

"No ... you did just fine informing yourself of such."

"What? You've never played Angry Birds ... !? Come on ..."

"Never have."

"Wow. You need to get with the program ..."

"What program?"

"I mean ... you need to get with it. Get updated on things."


"Because you're missing out."

"On what?"

"Stuff! Things! Technology! Fun! Needful things necessary to get around today!"

"Like what?"

"NBA 2K13 ... !!! File Expert ... !!! SnapPea ... !!! Circle Alarm ... !!! Stuff to aid you in everyday life. You're living in the dark ages, my man ..."

"Well ... I got along just fine before my phone came along. I think I can get along with the basics I have now without any problems."

"Okay ... what apps do you have on your phone?"

"Calculator ... maps ... e-mail ... dictionary ..."

*sigh* "Don't you have any real games? Any apps that aren't from the Stone Age?"

"Yeah. Sudoku."

"Sudoku ... !?? Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack ..."

"You realize there is a ton of things out there better than Sudoku ..."

"Sudoku suits me just fine ..."

"... like a new free version of Plants Vs. Zombies being offered ..."

"I've heard."

"Well ... don't you watch movies or television programs on your phone?"

"I don't understand that: Why in the world would anyone want to watch a movie or TV program on their phone? I prefer not to squint while watching those things."

"Well ... to pass the time ... when traveling ... waiting for something ..."

"I read. Or snap photos."

"There you go. What ... you have a Kindle or something? Your phone has an app for that."

"Yeah ... I've heard. I would hate to read a book on my phone. Again ... way too small for my taste."

"You said you take photos. You could do stuff with them right away on your phone, you know. Color corrections, stuff like that."

"I do those things when I get home on my computer. I wouldn't want to do that on my phone. I might miss a photo opportunity while I'm fooling with something like that. Besides ... too small."

"So ... you have no other apps on your phone?"

"I text on occasion."

"I wouldn't consider that an app. Everyone has that."

"Then ... no. Oh! Wait! I have a calendar! That comes in handy sometimes."

*sigh* "I'm just saying: You need to get with the times."

"No. I don't. I see everyone with their heads buried in their phones on buses, in their cars, walking down the street, on planes, at sporting events ... in restaurants sitting across from their partner who they should be having a conversation with. You know why they call them 'smart phones' ... ??? Because they're making people dumb, that's why. You know why kids bastardize words? Shorten them? Use numbers instead of letters? Why they use acronyms? Why they don't capitalize or use punctuation any more? Because they 'think' they're too busy, they think they're savvy. What they're doing is atrophying their minds. Kids - and adults, too - are losing the ability to communicate and they're becoming more dimwitted by the moment. I've been dim longer than smart phones have been around; I don't need to become any dimmer. If I need to measure something, I'll pick up a tape measurer and measure it. I don't need an application for that. I'll find out for myself whether a restaurant is worthy of my patronage by strolling into it, not by looking up its Zagat rating on my phone. I've gotten along without all that mamby-pamby who-ha quite nicely up to this point and I figure I'll continue to do so just fine while everyone out there is pulling out their portable chargers because their phones are running out of juice."

"Wow. You're pretty passionate about being in the dark ... aren't you?"

"Just a matter of perspective ... and my perspective isn't ruled by a 3" diagonal screen."

Speaking of ranting against technological fun, Michael and I, along with Jeff Hickmott, are The Unbelievables, a crime-fighting trio whose retro-fashion adventures are chronicled at the Facebook page of The Kitsch Bitsch. Check us out there!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Never mind the bollocks, here come The Unbelievables!

Hi there! Is everyone enjoying this year's Guest Author selections? I hope so; I sure am.
Anyway, there's something new I want to tell you about: The Unbelievables
This is a direct spin-off from fun and games that began on the Facebook page of The Kitsch Bitsch, where Jeff Hickmott, Michael Noble and I spin yarns of action and adventure inspired by cheesy old catalog photos from the '60s and '70s. That sounds silly, doesn't it? It is! It's fun though; give us a try.
Jeff Hickmott, Michael Noble, Clark Brooks: Unbelievable!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today's guest author: Cheryl Williams

I love everybody who is contributing this month, but I am REALLY excited to introduce today's Blog Sitter: Cheryl Williams is an exceptionally talented writer and a fresh voice that I think we'll all be hearing big things from in the future. You can follow her at her web site, Common Knowledge Magazine, which is dedicated to "Celebrating freedom of expression one post at a time." I was unable to publish her contribution in time for Veteran's Day, but her message is relevant beyond the calendar date.

Veterans Day: Food for the Soul

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. --John F. Kennedy

It's the dinner hour in Smalltown, USA. After a long day of heartfelt memoriam, many military families make their way in droves to the local diner. Everyone knows hearty food and fellowship is a recipe for uplifting spirits. Likewise, with each Veterans Day many restaurants proudly fill a soldier's belly with a down-home meal free of charge. Needless to say, this has become a family tradition...

Over the distinct clamor of boots, chatter and clinking china, my thoughts fell silent as I stared off into the hungry crowd. Today, America honors her brave... flags set half mass, heads bow and trumpets blow. Meaningful ceremonies and heartfelt gestures symbolize the sentiments of the day. Yet, I dare say its within subtle moments such as these where we truly take in what Veteran's day means for not only veterans, but us all. Suddenly, my gaze fell upon my aging father (a Vietnam War veteran) chuckling in solace along with fellow veterans, as each worked his or her way to a healthy helping of mashed potatoes. It is a communal yet remarkable scene – witnessing the pride and purpose, mutual respect and shared solace only seen in the eyes and deep camaraderie between men and women who've served, fought and lost; including the mutual understanding among the dedicated husbands, wives and children who keep them going each day. It's in these quite moments, I feel ever grateful -- once again, reminded of not the struggles and sacrifices it took [and continues to take] for us to be here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today's guest author: Jeff Hickmott

Today we're hearing from our old friend in the UK, the civic-minded and hilarious Jeff Hickmott. Jeff almost has too many web sites and side projects to list, but let's take a shot...
  • First, we have The World of Jeff, self-described as "Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge"
  • Then we have The Food of Jeff, and there's a joke here about English cuisine and rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge, but I'm not going to make it.

  • As mentioned above, Jeff is a civic crusader and Transition Town Tenterden is where he posts his efforts on that front.
  • His newest wee one, Rosie, has a blog where Jeff does most of the heavy lifting.
So let's see; Jeff does four blogs and pitches in on mine when I ask for help. Meanwhile, I write one and take a month off every year. Now I feel bad. Although, not nearly as bad as he did after this adventure... 

It seems only a short while ago that I was privileged enough to be asked to grace these hallowed pages with a few words to entertain you, the reader. (I'm not saying Clark only has one reader - I merely suggest that he only has one reader at a time. After all, it would be nigh impossible to gather the thousands, nay, millions of his followers (note to self: must find a collective noun for Clark's fans. Justin has his Beliebers, Demi Lovato has her Lovatics - even One Direction, Dear God, have OneDirectioners (a bit lame, that one)) around the screen at one time. You'd never find a building big enough. Or a screen that size.)

But in actual fact it has been a year since I last dipped my toe in the Trickle of Conch. A year. A lot can happen during that space of time. So, what to pick to write about?

Truth be told, I have been saving the story of this particular episode of my life for just this occasion. I have deliberately neglected my own blog ( - gratuitous pluggery, as Clark would say) to relate the fabulous story of how I became sterile by choice.

Hey, where do you think you're going? You don't want to read that? Alright, look, finish your breakfast/lunch/dinner and then read, OK? No gross icky bits, I promise. Well, not many.

It all began many, many moons ago when I first thought of having the procedure done. But then days turn into weeks blah blah blah... and we find ourselves a few years later in a different situation and a different country (where vasectomies happen to be free on the NHS). Bazinga!

Anyhoo, then my new partner tells us we are pregnant, expecting, bun in the oven etc. So I decide to put off the vasectomy till after the baby is born.

I shall now use a time-honoured writer's trick to shamelessly pad out my story, the mildly whimsical flashback.

I remember many years ago when my Dad told me the story of his own vasectomy experience. He went to have it done at a clinic where he'd been several months previously to have a septic cut on his hand treated. At that time, the doctor had looked at his notes and said "Hmmm, Hickmott, Hickmott... do you have a relative named Philip?"

Yes, my Dad said.

"He built a lovely fishpond in my garden, absolutely lovely.."

All the time Dad's thinking, get on with it!

So a few months later he went back to the same clinic for the vasectomy. This was in the days before it was microsurgery. Before it was almost non-invasive. When it was basically, cut him open, spread his goolies out on the table, cut the right bit, tie that bit, and put the goolies back in the right order.

The first thing that make him go 'hmmm', was the fact that out of all the other men who were there for the procedure, he was the only one who'd opted for a local anaesthetic. Hmmm.

The second thing was that when they wheeled him in there on a gurney and lowered a large green sheet over him with a square cut out of it, flopping his tackle through as they did so, the same doctor hove into view.

And then proceeded to have the exact same cousin-fishpond-garden conversation with him. All the while cutting open, spreading his goolies all over the shop, and cutting bits.

When I went to my doctor and asked about the procedure, he explained that it was far less invasive or painful and that nothing of that sort would be happening to me, although he could not guarantee the surgeon's mode of conversation.

Dr. Dowling, my doc, said that when it came to having children, one was procreation, two was population, and three was pollution. I now have four, which is just showing off.

I was referred to a local clinic and went in for a consultation interview with Laura. We sat and talked with Dr. Rajasekar (or Dr. Raj) for about 15 minutes, then he gave me a quick examination in order to see if my Vas Deferens was easy to locate (it was) and the ball started rolling. Sorry, bad choice of words.

I called and got an appointment for Oct. 16th.

In the interim period, we had a baby. See Oh my, more shameless plugging and self-promotion.

On the day, I had been advised to wear tight underwear of the swimming-trunk close-fitting variety. this was in order to help the sutures and dressings stay in place. Now, I am a boxers type of guy. I like freedom of movement. Close-fitting is anathema to me.

Suitably gussied up, I arrived at the clinic. My sister had driven me there and since the clinic was right across the roundabout from Tesco, she and Laura went there while I was esconced in the doctor's capable hands.

As I sat in the waiting room, I witnessed a man exit the doctor's surgery and walk along the corridor in the manner of one John Wayne. He had clearly had the procedure. I knew they did three of them every Tuesday. He was clearly not comfortable. And he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend "I AM McLOVIN".

Soon I was called in. Dr. Rajasekar ushered me in and I signed a couple of forms. He then introduced me to his nurse. A tall, attractive redhead. Not what I expected at all.

When you're lying there having the procedure done, and you're like me, you cannot bear to have dead air. You have to fill that void with something. So I was talking. Talking about anything other than what was going on. Opera. Shepherd's Pie. Anything. I notice that doctors these days, when they are about to use a needle of any sort, are apt to say "You might feel a little scratch". Scratch? No, it's a prick. But they can't say "You might feel a prick" when they are performing surgery on your nads.

So it was fairly straightforward and there has not been any pain since that couldn't be managed with Ibuprofen or similar. But one of Dr. Raj's parting shots was "You might experience some bruising or swelling." So far, no bruising. But about four days later, I felt like I needed a wheelbarrow in front of me. To carry my bollocks.

But at least I didn't have to talk about fishponds.   Speaking of ball-busting banter fun, Jeff and I, along with Michael Noble, are The Unbelievables, a crime-fighting trio whose retro-fashion adventures have been chronicled at the Facebook page of The Kitsch Bitsch. Check us out at our brand-new site:!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Today's guest author: Ronny Elliott

Ronny Elliott blogs as much as he plays music these days, and he's constantly playing music. Somehow he found time to volunteer for a shift as a Blog Sitter.

Nobody ever went into the rock'n'roll business for any purpose other than to pick up girls. Well, maybe Chrissie Hynde or Madonna but you know what I mean. I've been in this racket for almost fifty years and I don't remember ever picking up a girl. I'm pretty sure that I would remember, too. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.

Honestly, rock'n'roll died somewhere back on the highway a long time ago. The music business kept the death a secret for financial purposes but then the music business died, too. Good riddance. I still do what I've always done and, of course, there are rock stars out on the road making lots of money. The Rolling Stones just announced their new tour. That doesn't change anything. Elvis is dead and he still makes a lot of money, too. More than ever, in fact.

It's hard to mourn the loss of something that I loved as much as I did rock'n'roll. It had a fine run. It was probably on life support when Elvis went into the army but the Beatles breathed fire and life into the body and that next wave was bigger than the first. We can argue all day about when it expired just like those boring nuts fight about when it began. Who cares.

What's next? Who knows. I just want to pick up girls.   Ronny's latest album, titled "I've Been Meaning to Write" is available on Amazon, CDBabyiTunes and lots of other places. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Today's guest author: Ellen Mueller

Our second contribution of the month is from my friend and favorite artist, Ellen Mueller. "It's shameless self-promotion for a show that I'm curating, but it might be of interest to your readers nonetheless", she says. And with that, we happily present...

The 17 Tips Project

This project invited artists to create works in reaction to each of William Powhida's "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell". Powhida's tips are very sarcastic and satirical, which I found to be especially fun. We posted a tip/prompt each week, starting June 9, 2012 and finishing on October 6th, 2012. To participate, artists were invited to make 1 work of art (any medium) for each tip (that's 17 works - ambitious!). Currently, we're putting together a catalog of the results, and compiling an exhibition that will travel to a variety of venues. William Powhida will be contributing a short essay to the catalog, and our first exhibition opens on Nov 8! Feel free to check out the wide variety of artwork at

WARNING: The blog contains artwork that is NSFW and some may find offensive.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Today's guest author: Clare Austin

This is not a picture of Clare
Today's selection is timely, in that tomorrow is election day (get out there and VOTE... unless you're a stupid person, in which case, stay home and DON'T) and it comes to us from Clare Austin, who describes herself thusly:

"Clare Austin is a wife, a mother, a friend to cats, and a hockey nut. In her spare time, she's a historian of American political ideas at a university in the "Athens of the South," Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, they do actually call it that. No one really knows why."
Theodore Roosevelt, Bullets, and Politics

October 14, 2012, was the 100th anniversary of a specific and unique speech given by Theodore Roosevelt. He was in Milwaukee, WI, in 1912, stumping as part of his campaign for president under the banner of the Bull Moose, formally the Progressive Party. John Schrank, a deranged man who had been stalking the former president for weeks trying to get a clean shot at him finally did, just before Roosevelt was due to go on stage.

The bullet wound wasn't fatal, but it was painful, lodging in his chest after being slowed by a steel eyeglass case and the manuscript he had prepared for his speech. Still the Colonel—as he was sometimes called—insisted on going on with the show. "I am alright," he said, "and you cannot escape listening to the speech, either." You see, he believed in powering through, did our Teddy, just like a bull moose would. And he believed he had a message that this incident only served to underline.

The political climate of Teddy Roosevelt's life would have felt at once familiar and strange to us. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of burly, rough and tumble politics, with schisms and personal vendettas galore. It was a time of unrest, of repeated boom and bust economic cycles, of the increasing power of "combinations" in all sectors of American life—social, political, and economic. The politics of the time could be vicious and bloody, both metaphorically and literally.It was a politics of color and sound and movement only slightly less choreographed than today's television spectacles.
But there's a lot we wouldn't recognize.

We wouldn't recognize the power of the now almost meaningless American socialist movement. Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate in 1912, was as great an electoral threat to Roosevelt as Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats. We tend to forget that about ourselves. (Keep in mind that the violent birth of the Soviet Union was still some five years in the future.)

We might not recognize the conservatives' certainty that the cruelties of human society were both inherent and necessary, that for society to function the struggles of daily life had to be hard, and that it was futile and dangerous to try to even the playing field. But at the same time, we would probably reject the Progressives' unending faith in the power of knowledge and expertise to end suffering, in our ability to overcome and transform human tragedy by changing the system.

Our political climate today can be just as vicious and occasionally as bloody as it was in 1912. Our politicians talk in sound bytes a little more frequently, and the public is a bit less willing to take political rhetoric at its face. But sometimes, words uttered a century ago, in an age of optimism about the human future and the power of progress, echo down to us only mildly distorted by their trip through time.
Friends, every good citizen ought to do everything in his or her power to prevent the coming of the day when we shall see in this country two recognized creeds fighting one another, when we shall see the creed of the "Havenots" arraigned [sic] against the creed of the "Haves." When that day comes then such incidents as this to-night will be commonplace in our history.
Roosevelt foresaw revolution in the politics of his day. He foresaw a time when the working class, pushed too far into the margins, would fight back, much like they had in 1877 and 1886 and 1894, much like they would in Russia in 1917. But more than that, Roosevelt saw social unrest as a chance to perfect human society and the Progressive movement in particular as
a movement in which we ask all just men of generous hearts to join with the men who feel in their souls that lift upward which bids them refuse to be satisfied themselves while their countrymen and countrywomen suffer from avoidable misery.

Roosevelt the politician's answer to chaos was a call for justice for the working class, justice that he believed would forestall the collapse of the American system while tapping into what he deemed to be the vast energy of the laboring man.

Our solution today, sadly, would be to say "Get over yourself. You've got it good." And some version of "Stop picking on me."
We've lost, somehow, not a sense of civility in politics (that never really took hold), but a sense of optimism about what politics is. We are just as petty and violent and competitive as we were in 1912, but we no longer believe that truly big ideas—ideas about human nature and reality—have any place in our political life. We don't debate these kinds of ideas; we barely acknowledge their existence.
Off all the parallels and discontinuities between Teddy's world and our own, the starkest is this. We no longer seem to believe that through politics we can try to understand ourselves. As a consequence, we can't.

Friday, November 02, 2012

It's Blog Sitter Month!

Once again, it's November and once again, for the third year in a row, I'm going to take the month off. This has proven to be pretty popular with you as readers, with writers who contribute as Blog Sitters and mostly with me as someone who likes to slack off. While I think you still need Blog Sitters (if I leave you alone for a month without fresh material, I'm afraid you'll wander off and never come back), I do believe you're mature enough now to appreciate what goes into the process of selecting them. For that reason, I'm sharing with you the email I sent to writers. (NOTE: If you'd like to be a Blog Sitter, take this as your invitation. Send me a note indicating your interest with "Blog Sitter" in the subject line and we'll go from there).

Dear prospective Blog Sitter,

Last year around this time, I sent you an email asking if you'd like to participate as a guest author on my big dumb purple blog during the month of November.

Now I'm sending you another one, asking the same thing, only for THIS November (apparently, they have one every year).

This will be the third year of doing this, which qualifies as an annual tradition.

• The first year, I took the month off to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those who like contractions or have recently suffered massive head trauma.

• Last year, I don't remember, but I think I just sat around the house in my underwear for a month. Let's try not to talk or even think about that.

• This year, I could really use the time off to finish my first book project, "A Ridiculously Inconsistent Treasury", which will feature the "Best Of" from my big dumb purple blog (just stuff that I wrote, not what you wrote; while your stuff is very good, and I am a fan, sincerely, that would be stealing. And go write your own damn book). Seriously. I'm doing a book and I want it finished by ChristmasHannukahKwanzaa (or Cab Calloway's birthday, if you're not into the whole gift-giving/Jesus's birthday [observed, not actual]/peer pressure-enforced retail death march thing).

Anyway, if you don't want to participate, you can stop reading now and go back to Gawker or Reddit or 4chan or wherever all the cool kids are making with the LOLZ these days. Thanks.

If you do want to participate, GREAT!! The hell with those people who quit reading after that last sentence anyway, right? Eff them!! (Wrong! Don't be that way. They're nice people. Just severely flawed.) The deal is the same as previous years: Send me whatever you want published along with a short bio and a picture (optional). I'll publish it, unedited, with links back to whatever site(s) you want linked back to. There's a short FAQ in the old email below if you need more background, but that's really all there is to it.

Anyway, I hope you all decide to do it because I really do love you, more than you know and more than what may be legally tolerable in some states in a few weeks. Honestly.


Your buddy and pal,

Clark     FAQ

What can I submit?
Anything you want. I'd prefer something original, but I'm not choosy.

When will my piece run?
I'll publish everything in order of when I receive them. I'll give you advance notice in case you want to tell your friends, neighbors and parents who said you'd never be any good at anything.

Is there any money for doing this?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!

What about...?
Excuse me, I wasn't done responding to the last question: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!